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Mark's Gospel

Mark's Gospel

Even though we refer to the four Gospels as Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John the titles “according to …” were added later. There are traditions and scholarly theories about the authors and their gospels. In 2021, we are in Cycle B for our Mass readings. That means listening to Mark’s Gospel proclaimed for most Sundays with John on occasion.

The Gospel according to Mark was written around 65-70 perhaps in Rome. We know it was written for a predominately gentile audience since it translates Aramaic words and describes Jewish rituals. The traditional author of the gospel is known as John Mark. This tradition goes back to the second century and equates John Mark with Paul (see Acts 12, 13, 15) and with Peter (1 Peter). In Acts 12:12, Peter goes for comfort to his mother’s house. Mark’s Gospel is the only one to contain a reference to a young man in Gethsemane at the time of Jesus’ arrest (Mark 14:51-52). Could this be John Mark, the son of one of Jesus’ early disciples? Peter could easily be one of the gospel’s sources for Jesus’ life, but not the only one.

Mark’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus as the suffering Messiah. The second half of the gospel begins with Peter’s confession of Jesus’ identity and the first prediction of his death as it marches toward Golgotha. Mark’s Gospel is known for the “messianic secret,” the concept that Jesus always commands people to be silent about his identity. Mark does this for a number of reasons: first, Jesus never used this title for himself; second, the true meaning of Jesus’ messiahship is only realized after his death and resurrection; and, third, Jesus is not the political and military messiah longed for by the Jews of his day.

The theology of Mark’s Gospel is the Kingdom of God. In fact, the entire gospel can be summed up in Jesus’ opening statement: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) All of Jesus’ preaching and actions are geared towards the Kingdom. His parables strive to deepen people’s understanding of the Kingdom. His healings anticipate what life will be like in the Kingdom.

Mark wants us to understand that Jesus is the ultimate parable of the Kingdom. Jesus’ story is one of teaching, healing, and exorcising; but without the cross it has no climax, no guiding principle. Without the passion, death, and resurrection there is no meaning. However, since Jesus’ suffering leads to glory, our appropriate response is discipleship.

Mark uses his portrayal of the disciples as guides for his own community. In the first half of the gospel, Mark shows the disciples as people to be imitated. He presents discipleship as being with Jesus, sharing in his ministry of teaching and healing. Nevertheless, as the gospel proceeds, the disciples misunderstand Jesus’ passion predictions, one of them betrays him, and another denies him. The disciples move from models to be imitated to models to be avoided. Jesus becomes the sole source of guidance.

—  Brian Guillot

Director of Faith Formation

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